Updated date:

How to Make a Wood Slab Coffee Table

Author:

Jack is a volunteer at the CCNY Archives. Before retiring, he worked at IBM for over 28 years. His articles have over 100,000 views.

how-to-make-a-wood-slab-coffee-table

Introduction

This project was unplanned. I did not start out to make a piece of furniture. I was mostly doing simple log stools and walking sticks. This piece of raw slab was part of a maple tree that was taken down by my neighbor. I just saw it being cut and thought I could make some use out of it. It was destined to be shipped to recycling center and most likely made into mulch or wood chips.

- Jan. 2021

My Plan...

The raw slab has several challenges. It was huge and heavy. It has a nice shape but it was cut unevenly. There were some defects due to wood rot, part of reason the tree needed to be cut down.

My plan is to:

  1. level the top surface
  2. remove all the bark
  3. shape the bottom surface even
  4. excavate a well about 2-3 inches
  5. sand all surfaces to a smooth finish
  6. mount 4 hair pin legs
  7. patch and fill all cracks
  8. seal the top surface with oil
  9. finish surface and use a satin polyurethane finish
  10. protect with Danish oil

The Tools I Used

  • Belt sander
  • Rotary sander
  • Edge angle sander/grinder
  • Hammer
  • Chisels
  • Handsaw
  • Rotary saw
  • Chainsaw
  • Hand plane
  • Power plane
  • Power drill
  • Screwdriver
how-to-make-a-wood-slab-coffee-table

Materials...

  • Wood patch
  • Wood fillers
  • Satin Polyurethane
  • Danish oil
  • Sand paper, 80 and 120 grade.
  • brushes
  • hair pin legs

Some Detours...

1. The first problem I encountered was that the top surface was cut unevenly. There was a bulge near the middle. I had to find someway to make it fairly even. I ended up getting a power plane. At first, I used a hand plane but it was just too tough and too slow. I was not making much progress.

2. My second problem was the backside was even less regular. There was a difference of 5 inches in the thickness of the wood from one edge to the other. This added to the weight of this table. I liked the shape of the contours but needed to lighten the load.

3. There were a few spots where the wood rotted. I had to patch them with wood fillers.

4. After sitting in my garage for the good part of the summer, the top surface had cracks due to the drying of the wood and expansion. I had to find a wood filler that is neutral.

5.Locating the center of gravity. Because the shape is non circular and the thickness is uneven, I had to find the center of gravity to mount the legs. There are four hair pin steel legs. They are strong enough to hold up the weight of this table. The trick is to locate them so the weight is distributed evenly.

6. There were several deep cuts on the top surface of the table. Not sure how they got there but it was hard to remove them without affecting the overall levelness of the piece.

Original Slab

how-to-make-a-wood-slab-coffee-table

The Bottom Side with the Carved out Space

how-to-make-a-wood-slab-coffee-table

Final Product - JCL-T2 2021

how-to-make-a-wood-slab-coffee-table

Summary

This project was one of the toughest and most time consuming one. It took me three months from start to finish. I am satisfied with the end result and have learned quite a bit along the way.

I wished I found a better way to excavate the wood cavity from the underside of the table. That was most of the work.

I found the rotary chain disc to attach to my edge sander. It did the job.

My Simple Coding System

After completing so many pieces of wood projects, I decided to tag each piece with a code. My code is very simple and it is usually located under the piece or on the lower sides.

For example this piece that I just completed is: JCL-T2 2021

The JCL is my full initial.

The T represents a table, other codes are E for end table, W for walking stick...

The number is the sequence. Since this is the second table I made.

The Year is when I completed the project.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jack Lee

Comments

Liz Westwood from UK on February 13, 2021:

This looks like a challenging project well executed and well described.